A growing belly. A nursery set up and ready for the baby’s arrival. Lots of talk about what will happen when the baby arrives. There are changes happening, with more changes to come, and this can create a lot of emotion — both positive and negative. Because bringing a new baby into the family can be an exciting and a challenging time for a big brother or sister, it is likely parents may face some obstacles during the adjustment period. Here are a few tips on how to help kids feel positive about the new baby and avoid problem behaviors.
Know when to tell your child.
It’s a good idea to let your child know about their new baby brother or sister as soon as you start to let other people know. Kids are smart, and they catch on to a lot that we don’t always know they are paying attention to. It’s way better for them to hear the news from you than to overhear a phone conversation between you and grandma, or have someone ask them how they feel about the new arrival before you have had a conversation with them yourself.
Set realistic expectations.
If your child is old enough to understand a little about what having a sibling may mean, it’s important to set realistic expectations. As anyone who has ever cared for a new baby knows, newborns sleep a lot during the day and can be up a lot at night. This means the adults in the house might be more tired during the day, and the usual routine might shift a little at first while everyone is adapting to the baby’s needs. Prepare your child by having conversations about what the first days might look like and what the baby will be able to do and not do. The downside for big brother or sister is they will have to wait a little while before their sibling is ready to play. The upside is that the baby won’t try to take any of their toys for a little while, too!
Make it exciting!
There are a lot of ways to make your child feel excited about being a big brother or sister. You can start to read books and watch shows about their new role in the family when the baby arrives. Pick out a fun shirt that says ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Big Sister’ for them to proudly wear. This can even be a fun way to let other family members know about your new addition, and they may be excited to be a part of sharing the news. If your child is old enough, help them pick out items for the new baby’s room, or pieces of clothing for the baby to wear — maybe even the outfit their new sibling will wear home from the hospital.
Reassure your child.
Change can be scary at any age, even if it’s a positive change. In the midst of the changes happening in your home, you want to be sure your child feels safe and secure. Remind them that you have an infinite amount of love to give and that your love for them will never change. Also, if they have a room of their own, remind them that this is their special space. Yes, the other rooms of the house might be changing, but their room does not have to change. Also, let them know of the things you will keep the same, like mealtime, bedtime or bathtime, and if you plan to change these drastically when the baby arrives, be sure to start that process before the baby is home, as opposed to after as to prevent meltdowns.
Offer lots of grace.
While this is an exciting time for your family, it’s also a time of adjustment and can bring more tantrums and needy behavior than you are used to from your child. Remember, it’s OK if they aren’t always happy about this change in your world. It doesn’t mean they don’t love the idea of their new brother or sister, it just means their world is changing — and it is OK, and good, to acknowledge that it might be hard.